Well, here's an instant cliché about creating value on the job: to succeed, you need to work, work, work. But there's more to success than 80-hour workweeks. You have to do the right things in the right amount to get ahead, according to employment expert Ramon Greenwood. He's a former Senior Vice President at American Express and author of the book How to Land Your First Job and Make a Success of It.
Greenwood's insights, while especially relevant for new graduates entering the workforce, will help anyone of any age who has to earn a paycheck.
Work Hard at the Right Things:
"First, understand what it is you're doing and why you're doing it, so you can figure out how to do it better," says Greenwood. In other words, make sure you know why you're on the payroll. What exactly are you getting paid to do? Make money? Save money? Both? Ask your boss to spell out which job duties will determine your success. Then focus on doing those critical few things well.
Once you know what to do, a great way to get more of it done is to arrive early and stay late. "Get to work 30 minutes before the starting time. You can get routine chores out of the way and organize your day's work before the interruptions start. Often, you will find your boss is in early, too, so this is a great time to get better acquainted with him or her. At the end of the day, stay at least 15 to 30 minutes after hours. Clean up your work place and make a list of actions to take the next day," advises Greenwood.
This one thing - starting 30 minutes early and staying 30 minutes late - will give you an extra 20 hours of productivity every month. That's equal to six full working weeks every year. Now, do you think you might get noticed by the boss if you worked six weeks more than everyone else?
Seek out Responsibility:
Most people instinctively run from responsibility, like cats from a hose. It's just human nature. But this opens the door for anyone willing to take on new, more challenging tasks. "When it comes to responsibility, you can dodge it, accept it when you have no other choice, or seek it out and take it on," says Greenwood.
Prove this for yourself. Look around your office. You'll find the most successful people at work are those who seek out new responsibilities. (If not, you're likely at a company where the top employees all refer to the boss as "Mom" or "Dad").
"From my own 20+ years of experience, I can verify that anyone who volunteers for the tasks and responsibilities that nobody else wants will make himself indispensable. You can literally become 'fireproof' this way and create real job security for yourself." Greenwood notes.
Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help:
We all know men hate to ask for directions. That's why man put GPS navigation systems in cars. But work is different. Man or woman, you'll never become an all-star employee if you never seek assistance.
"It takes courage to ask for help, but you'll be better off when you do, and, ultimately, you'll be better respected," says Greenwood.
After all, you can't be expected to know everything. Asking for help is a sign of strength. It shows to others that you are confident and focused on producing results. So, find a mentor who will take you under their wing and share their experience. Good news: this is easy to do, since roughly 100% of folks are flattered and willing to help when asked for advice. Just be sure not to abuse the privilege and dump every minor problem in your mentor's lap.
These real-world tips from a former executive won't guarantee you a promotion in 30 days, but they will increase your odds for success on your current job and throughout your career.